How F1 drivers helped Codemasters make “massive gains” with F1 2020’s realism

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Feedback from Lando Norris and other Formula 1 drivers has helped Codemasters make F1 2020 more realistic in several ways, according to the developer.

As many F1 drivers are playing the championship’s official game more regularly as part of the Virtual Grand Prix series, Codemasters have used the opportunity to gather more information about how their virtual F1 cars compare to the real-world counterparts.

This has led to changes in the handling of the cars, the Energy Recovery System and even the reproductions of the circuits, Codemasters’ Formula 1 director Lee Mather explained.

“We get feedback from the drivers quite regularly,” he said. “Normally when we get together with the drivers at events they’ll come and talk to us. Obviously at the moment we’ve got more drivers than ever playing the game on a regular basis so the level of feedback that we’re getting now is probably greater than we’ve ever had.”

One noticeable change in the upcoming new edition of the game, which RaceFans has played a preview version of, is an overhaul of the Energy Recovery System. This was prompted by feedback Norris gave them at an F1 Esports event.

“He was saying ‘your ERS deployment stuff is too complicated'” Mather explained. “He said ‘That’s not what we do, we don’t have to worry about that. The teams create a map for the car and then they tell me where I’ve got the overtake and when I haven’t got the overtake and I can use the additional power.'”

That functionality, and the ability for the driver to over-ride it, is now built into F1 2020. “We’ve implemented a system where the AI now handle that and that’s then presented to the player as well so the player’s car is mapped in the same way.

“They have the potential to use the overtake button. So if you want to go a bit racy, you can deploy the extra energy, obviously to the detriment of batteries – you’ve got less for the following laps or the following corners.”

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Other observations offered by drivers on F1 2019 referred to areas of the game Codemasters had already addressed for its upcoming sequel, said Mather.

“The other day we heard Charles [Leclerc] comment on the end sector at Catalunya, how the circuit wasn’t 100 percent correct. We’d actually already made those changes in 2020, we were aware that there was an issue with some of the height deviation.”

Codemasters believe they’ve also made “massive gains” in simulating the handling of F1 cars.

“Something that we’ve really taken on board by watching the VGPs [Virtual Grands Prix] has been how they are talking about the traction, the way the traction comes and goes, certainly on acceleration and also how it works in the braking zones. We’re really pleased because we’ve actually made significant changes in those areas this year already.

“Those braking distances now are way more realistic, they’re very Formula 1. The traction out the corners, again, is massively improved.

“This isn’t just changes to the tyre model, this is actually inertia changes to the physics: The calculations that we use to calculate the inertia in the wheel of the tyre. Obviously that un-sprung mass is quite heavy and travelling at those speeds it requires a huge amount of force to break it, to slow the car down.”

Intriguingly, one driver told them F1 2019 felt more realistic with the traction control assist switched on.

“The driver feedback was ‘I don’t have the confidence on the throttle that I think I should have’. In fact, some of the feedback we had recently was they say that in a modern Formula 1 car the feeling of getting on the throttle is very similar to how our game in ’19 would have been if you had medium traction control on.

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“That’s how much grip they actually have. So those changes that we’ve made this year have bought the game much closer to what the drivers are telling us they experience.”

The team is pleased with the realism gains it has made based on the feedback from drivers.

“How the grip comes and goes, how manageable it is – or how not manageable it is at certain times – how the braking distance is, they don’t feel they’ve got enough traction for the brakes.

“We’ve made massive gains there. It feels grippier, it feels tighter, it feels, as the drivers said, more like a Formula 1 car should.”

Note: All images and footage show the game in an unfinished state.

Video: F1 2020 First Play

More videos from our first play of F1 2020 are being published over the coming days. Find them all on RaceFans’ YouTube page:

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 37 comments on “How F1 drivers helped Codemasters make “massive gains” with F1 2020’s realism”

    1. Watching the content creators of Tiametmarduk and Trl Limitless, it appears that you can lose the car on gears 1-4 if you attempt to abuse the traction. However, that happened only when they were driving on a wheel. The controller could be the same like on all games in which it has some assist in traction for the player. Initial impressions look like the handle is closer to real F1 cars, which is great, and that tracks have been modified closer to their real versions.

    2. Good to hear they are taking onboard driver feedback and trying to improve the realism.

      But I have to admit to having the mental picture of a young developer at his desk, tongue to one side, with his thumb in front of his nose, squinting and thinking ‘yeah that’s about right’…

      1. @aussierod can’t be much different to other sims. Unless you get a programmer that’s also a driver and an engineer working for you.

        I mean, iRacing’s tyre model is also quite broken… they get a lot of data from the manufacturers and that’s good, but there’s still holes in the system which they surely cover by guesses and supposition.

        1. William Jones
          14th May 2020, 9:46

          True, there’s a current trend in sim racing to make cars difficult to drive, many sim racers who have never troubled a real car will snub an easier to drive game as “casual” or “unrealistic”. Yet drivers have consistently said that real life cars are much easier when they lose grip to control, yet the sim racing crowd (of which I am one) demand twitchier and twitchier driving models, and so the market has skewed away from realism in the other direction.

          1. This is exactly it. I hated so much RFactor 1/2 because of this, the driving in ice at low speed is insufferable. I have done quite a few laps in karts, which are not precisely the grippiest cars, and there is no way to break traction in the manner you suffer in many high-named sims.

            Honorable mentions: both race07 and game stock car manage a much more decent feeling of when a car should or should not lose it. Which in the case of race07 is amazing considering it never was supposed to be a sim-sim and the age it has.

    3. It’s about time.

      The world is flocking en masse to these racing games, and Codemasters and F1 have an appalling sports game that makes minor iterations each year in a cut & paste. I’d be embarrassed working for Codemasters and seeing the glitches and issues that are on permanent display every time you try and load the game.

      Meanwhile, DIRT Rally and DIRT Rally 2.0 were returns to form not seen by Codemasters since the Colin McRae era. When will they learn that the GRID series needs to return pronto to the ToCA/DTM era and not the drifting stuff?

      Honestly, the F1 game by Codemasters needs to broaden its spectrum way more along the simulator side of the spectrum. The arcade stuff is easy to maintain by just dampening force feedback, physics, and systems.

      1. I’ve been saying this for a decade now – You can dumb down a great simulator and made it arcadey for the fisher-price guys but still realistic enough for the simming crowd.

        It doesn’t work the other way.

        1. So true , so true , just look at GP4

      2. @crunch For all the complaints about the F1 games they still sell very well as do the more arcade oriented Dirt & Grid games.

        That is what the mass market wants & every time somebody has tried to cater more to the sim crowd on the console space it’s never sold as well as the more accessible/arcade oriented stuff. Codemasters kept the formula largely the same with just minor tweaks each year because the market was telling them that was all that was needed as they continued to sell & review well.

        Sim’s may do well on PC but the wider console market where 95% of sales occur simply isn’t looking for that type of thing which is why whenever somebody tries it it doesn’t do well commercially.

        To be honest i’ve been happy with the F1 games codemasters have been releasing (I also really enjoyed the most recent Grid), They offer me exactly what i’m looking for from them. A pick up & play fun experience I don’t need to dedicate hours to just in order to understand them as you do a lot of the sims. Make them too sim & that would be a turn off for me now because it’s just not what i’m looking for at this stage of my life as I just don’t have the time to get as good at the sims as I once did.

    4. Spain is not just an height deviation but that’s fine. There is no traction control in f1 but the mapping and deployment is so sophisticated that I’m not surprised to hear that cars have more traction than in the game.

    5. Interesting how they can model a track wrong in this day and age. iRacing has been doing laser scanning for more than a decade, apparently Codemasters is not doing the same?

      1. They didn’t laser-scan tracks, up to this year. The new Zandvoort track is based on a laser scan and they used lidar data as well (Jimmy Broadbent mentioned this on his initial review).

        It looks like they have realised that the game should move more towards the simulation side of the spectrum. That’s good news!

      2. GtisBetter (@)
        14th May 2020, 17:05

        Well, in Iracing you pay a subscription and have to buy cars and tracks, beside the couple of free one’s. That is why they can afford so many laser scanned tracks. No

      3. @kaiie Laser scanning is expensive & takes a lot of time to incorporate the data into the game & given what F1 & codemasters were going for (An accessible, More arcadey/fun experience) it likely just wasn’t worth it.

        They have only done it with Zandvoort because the data was supplied to them as there wasn’t time to go & take all the photographs & other necessary stuff to model the track the way they usually would.

      4. I’m surprised that laser scanning is not the cheapest way to build a track. I’d have thought it saved a lot of mucking around trying to work things out from maps and photos.

    6. What about the constant 3 second track limits penalties for taking a normal aggressive racing line? One that goes largely unpunished in a “real” grand prix…

      1. if you put the corner cutting stringency on normal instead of strict that’s fixed.

    7. This is so wrong on many levels. It should be the other way around. Real life racing should be adapting more drivers decision oriented.

    8. This sounds great! Will they be using the 2020 version soon?

    9. Basically the real cars are much easier to drive than what they’d done for F1 2019.

    10. Jockey Ewing
      14th May 2020, 13:01

      I don’t really like this “The teams create a map for the car and then they tell me where I’ve got the overtake and when I haven’t got the overtake and I can use the additional power.” Ok, nice that they can calculate it, but forbidding this kind of information exchange and let the driver use the ERS by himself would be more amazing. (And cheaper, and less predictable, and more rewarding if the driver is talented at doing this).

      1. Still no decisions regarding the T-Cam view used by most racers instead of the realistic Cockpit cam they should use like the real drivers. I still cannot understand why T-Cam is still allowed in online racing…

        1. Jockey Ewing
          15th May 2020, 15:36

          I interpreted this citation from Lando as a statement about IRL racing. I think yes, they have quite accuate predictions about whether an overtake attempt succeeds in average conditions or not. I guess this calculation is based on simulating it many times from the actual starting conditions. So I think they are “mapping the cars” to do this calculation and express numerically whether they overlap at the end of the overtake attempt or one is behind or not after the attempt.
          I think cockpit cameras are ok on one screen systems, but if the car is not an open wheeler a cockpit cam can be claustrophobic and may have too much dead zones as you can not look around that easily as IRL or in a VR system. This can take away from track safety, so I don’t blame anyone who feels safer or faster while using another camera. So for example I don’t drive LMP1 from cockpit on my one screen system, because the view is very very restricted, and I’m just half serious. And of course at many games the preset camera positions are not that accurate, for example at cockpit cam you see the whole steering wheel, while IRL you may only see it partially. So when you shift the camera a bit, you may end up at something that is almost the hood camera translated a bit backwards.

      2. There was this comment too, “In fact, some of the feedback we had recently was they say that in a modern Formula 1 car the feeling of getting on the throttle is very similar to how our game in ’19 would have been if you had medium traction control on.” Traction control is banned, yet the suggestion is cars have something akin to that.

      3. The driver shouldn’t be bothered with such things. He is there to drive the car and race with others, not managing complicated onboard systems.

    11. When does Codemasters send beta copies to Lando, Charles, George, Alex, Max, and Nicolas to get early feedback?
      Okay… Max probably still won’t play. :)

      1. If I remember correctly it was about a month back that Charles talked to Lando about a link they had been sent by Codemasters to download a beta but they weren’t allowed to stream when trying it out.

    12. I call it marketing nonsense. You don’t need no fancy input of F1 drivers. All you need are capable programmers that apply the laws of physics. Even 1998 GP Legends is far more realistic than this arcade racer.

      1. @d0senbrot Granjd Prix legends is more realistic because that is what the developers were going for.

        Codemasters have never aimed to make the F1 games a more realistic simulation in that way because it isn’t what F1 or the mass market is looking for.

        Both Codemasters & F1 aim to make them more arcadey because that is what sell’s. The more realistic sim’s never sell as well, Especially on the console market because that simply isn’t what the wider audience is after. And consider how probably 95% of those who play these games do so with a pad so again aren’t after anything too realistic.

        1. @roger-ayles You are right. And I am aware of what their goal and audience is. But that doesn’t change the fact, that it’s alot of marketing blah and advertisement.

    13. In the end, it’s still just a toy.

    14. Can you see your mirrors from the in car driver view?
      Bizarre question, but after 2 years of playing F1 2018, it only just now occurred to me that for the majority of cars, you can’t actually see your mirrors from the cockpit.

      Although I understand that this might be quite realistic in real life.

      1. No, but they added virtual rear mirror (like in iRacing), which you can turn on

      2. There will be a virtual mirror the very first time.
        (I use triple monitor setup so I can always see my side mirrors haha)

      3. Jockey Ewing
        15th May 2020, 16:00

        At Raceroom for example I use a virtual mirror at the middle.
        I think if someone takes it seriously, he likely uses binds to look around quite often whether a maneuver is safe or an overtake is succeed.
        I think this is a deficiency of one screen systems, as they are just a projection to a plane, and they are not surrounding you. So generally they choose to have a wider field of view to make you to see more of the surroundings. It’s not easy to resemble real life, for example human’s pheripherical vision is quite capable, but I doubt any game simulates that capability.
        Imo if the game let’s you to do that it’s a good idea to shift the camera a bit, to have a more comfortable or realistic feeling, for safety the virtual mirror is cool, and the lookaround binds also.
        Btw there is a nice free spotter application called CrewChief helping a lot at learning track safety, or maximizing your results. It works with major simulators, using this you have a spotter guy in radio, who warns you about dangers, flags, tells you laptimes, sector times, even swears in a funny way. It speeks fluently, and runs well even on utterly lowend systems. As I remember it even has speech recognition and you can control pit menu via that. It helped me to develop a careful style, and taught to quickly look around before I act, even when I’m not using it. Also adds a lot to the vibe of the races, one of the best freewares I ever seen.

    15. I’d be wary of anyone who can’t spell brake and used break instead.

      PS: youtube Actual F1 drivers describe Codemasters F1, to see three interesting videos

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